Rubber Match

Waterproof walking boots

I’ll confess that I have PTSD when it comes to rubber boots. Some of the worst blisters I’ve suffered have been the result of odd- or ill-fitting knee-high waterproof boots. But technology and materials have come a long way, so last summer I decided I would give five of the latest crop of waterproof footwear a chance. 

My test involved walking over hill and dale, seeking out calf-deep mud, fording swift streams, navigating slippery deadfalls and climbing piles of mossy rocks. I even drove my five-speed-manual hatchback, to check the boots’ ankle flexibility. In the end, I put more than 20 miles on each pair. Happily dry and blister-free, I can honestly say there wasn’t a bad choice in the bunch. I did confirm, however, that fit matters, and there was enough variance among the five pairs that I would seriously recommend checking fit before you commit. 


As it did with its oft-praised waders, Chêne Gear, the Memphis-based producer of quality waterfowling gear, got its Zippered Knee High Boot right. The boot features supple, natural rubber over a neoprene liner, providing warmth and a soft and comfortable interior. It slips on comfortably—making the full-length zipper (with waterproof gusset) often unnecessary but handy when tucking in pants—and there is a heel kick for easy removal. The boot also comes with an extra 7mm insole to customize fit. The tread seemed the least aggressive of the boots tested, with a stylistic use of the company name’s circumflex accent as the pattern. Colors: Olive, Brown (shown), Mossy Oak Bottomland, Mossy Oak Original Treestand. Sizes: Whole 6 through 14. Height: 16¾”. Weight: 5 pounds 12½ ounces per pair. Price: $240. Chêne Gear,


Based on looks alone, the LaCrosse Alpha Evolution was the first boot I grabbed. Made with Vibram XS TREK rubber compound for better traction and with an EVA rubber midsole, a fiberglass shank, a polyurethane footbed and a heel kick, this boot has the features to match its looks. Natural rubber over neoprene allows the boot to slip through heavy brush and briars damage-free. A neoprene gusset on the back allows for a tighter fit around the calf. For me, the jersey liner allowed the boot to slip on comfortably, and I left the calf tightener—which required both hands to adjust—in a fixed position. Color: Brown. Sizes: Whole 7 through 15. Height: 17¾". Weight: 5 pounds 13 ounces per pair. Price: $300. LaCrosse,


With their rich history, legions of fans and eight calf fittings to choose from, I wanted to love Le Chameau’s Chasseur Neoprene Lined Boots. For me, however, the width was tight and the length bent oddly, hitting my instep. A full-length waterproof zipper with snap-button tab secures the boot to the calf but, with no heel kick, the boot can be hard to remove. The neoprene interior was soft and comfortable but grabbed and bunched my wool socks. Made with supple Chamolux rubber reinforced to reduce abrasions, the boot was the most pliable tested. The dual-density sole offers good traction, and the reinforced shank provides arch support. Sizes: Whole 7 through 17 plus 9½ and 13½. Height: 17¼". Weight: 5 pounds 11 ounces per pair. Price: $399. LeChameau,


Of the boots tested, the Dryshod Evalusion was the sturdiest as well as the lightest. Climbing piles of rocks was no problem, thanks to the Dureva outsole and a tuck-board sub sole with steel shank for added stability. The neoprene upper was pliable enough to roll down the calf, and the hand-laid-rubber overlays and 4-way-stretch Airmesh lining kept my feet completely dry. The boot is generously sized, so you might consider starting a size smaller. A rear pull tab and a heel kick allow for easy on-off. The combination of price, features and sturdiness made the Evalusion my runner-up. Styles: Hi Brown/Dark Brown (shown), Hunt Camo/Bark. Sizes: Whole 7 through 14. Height: 16". Weight: 4 pounds 9 ounces per pair. Price: starting at $170. Dryshod,


The Irish Setter MudTrek is full of features, including ScentBan scent control and Tempsens temperature regulation—although these seem more like marketing labels than discernable advantages. The boot has a neoprene upper with a tension-tightener over an adjustable gusset and a vulcanized-rubber lower section. The rubber outsole has a relatively aggressive lug pattern to help with stability and traction and is made to release mud easily. A heel kick makes for easy removal. The boots seemed a bit stiff, resulting in some ankle fatigue on long hikes. There are seven unisex styles with various height (15" or 17"), fit (full or athletic), color (solid or camo) and insulation choices. Sizes: Whole 4 through 15. Weight: 4 pounds 9½ ounces per pair of 17" uninsulated. Price: starting at $160. Irish Setter,

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